Since 2018 brought us contentious and divisive midterms, it not surprising that solidarity movements played out over social media with slightly more of an edge than they did in 2017 or 2016. This year, the social campaigns that grabbed us expressed a new level of urgency, around social equality, human rights, health issues. So, buckle up for our review of this year’s most impactful social campaigns. Let’s see what we can learn from them.

5 Best Social Campaigns of 2018

1. #BelieveWomen (Related: #BelieveSurvivors, #HearMeToo)

One of the best reasons to keep an eye on social campaigns is that they often mirror issues our nation is grappling with. That’s why it wasn’t surprising that #BelieveWomen, #BelieveSurvivors, and #HearMeToo were trending around the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. Seen as a natural progeny of last year’s #MeToo movement, the hashtag was used to express solidarity with Dr. Ford when she came before a judicial committee (and the whole nation) to recount an alleged attempted rape by Supreme Court candidate Kavanaugh. Eloquent, yet nervous, Dr. Ford unflinchingly answered questions. And while her appearance was seen as partisan by the GOP, it would be difficult to listen to her testimony and not see the toll that experience has left on her. Many women chimed in with personal stories of assault, attempted assault, support, and solidarity. 

To say that #BelieveWomen made an impact in a short time period would be an understatement. The clamor of voices made mainstream publications, such as the New Yorker, take notice. 

2. #registertovote and #becounted

Presidents often face an indictment of their administration during the midterms following their election. This one was no different. Democrats led the charge in mobilizing voters to allow voices to be heard during the 2018 election cycle. With a comprehensive strategy that had a heavy social media component and a legion of volunteers, the goal was to galvanize communities of color, ex-convict populations, and other disenfranchised voters to take part in the elections and elect officials aligned with their best interests. And it worked! This election had the highest turnout of any in the last century with 50.1%.

3. #familiesbelongtogether (Related: #childrendonotbelongincages, @RaicesTexas)

In spring of this year, images went viral of detained children lying on concrete floors behind wire fences in an otherwise anonymous building. Turns out these specific images were four years old, and sparked not only outrage but a debate on the evolution of an ongoing human rights crisis. Most notably, children were increasingly separated at the border from their asylum-seeking parents and placed in makeshift facilities without freedom of movement or choice. @RaicesTexas picked up the spark and mobilized donations for legal costs.

4. #NotOneMore (Related: @everytown, #gunviolenceprotection, #gunsafety, #disarmhate, #GunSenseMajority, #WearOrange, #EndGunViolence, #StudentsDemandAction)

School shootings are a little too commonplace these days. That’s why the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are angry that this particular American tragedy visited their campus on Valentine’s Day this year.  Much like #familesbelongtogether this cause has an associated nonprofit @everytown and multiple hashtags that are used in conjunction with the movement, most notably the poignant #NotOneMore. (If it isn’t obvious referencing the belief that even one more school shooting is too much.)

5. #TransRightsAreHumanRights (Related: #WeWontBeErased, #lgbtqia, #genderfluid, #theythem)

On October 21, The New York Times published a piece about a memo they obtained that outlined an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.

In its memo, the department argued that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency proposed the definition of sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by genitals that a person is born with. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing. Unsurprisingly, the response on social media was swift, as were the organized spontaneous rallies. Many in the LGBTQIA took it as a signal that the administration was further wearing away human rights protections. 

Best Social Campaigns of 2018: Takeaways

PR and marketing pros are used to keeping in front of the shifting norms of social media campaigns and spotting what makes something viral. We saw that, much like last year, accessing an influencer’s audience can amplify a cause that might otherwise be buried under an avalanche of social media messages.

But we did notice some key differences in this year’s social approach. For the first time, activists are including clusters of organic hashtags around one idea. Previously, it seemed that there was one-to-one (one idea = one hashtag) usage. This evolution allows room for brands to launch their own hashtags in support of an idea, especially if a company is firmly in support of a specific agenda. To keep track of these shifting hashtags, you’ll want to update your media intelligence dashboard.

And, if you’re uncertain of which popular hashtag(s) to include in your related social posts, consider seeing who is using which hashtags. It makes sense to be strategic and choose the hashtag(s) that either your brand’s influencers or big influencers like Chelsea Clinton/ the Kardashians are already using.

This year, as with the last five, many movements originated on and gained traction through social. Using social channels with their inherent viral nature has enabled causes to raise awareness and millions of dollars in donations. Since the pace of social media is unlikely to slow in 2019 keeping up with shifting tactics in campaign creation will be paramount to seeing success.

If you’re interested in seeing how we can help you plan for a robust social campaign. Please reach out.